The Mangalore incident gives us all the perfect excuse to put on our most outraged faces, condemn the Sri Rama Sene, and pontificate at length on what really is wrong with our society. Yet this is not the first of these sort of incidents and one hardly thinks it will be the last. Righteous fundamentalist ire is a frighteningly potent fuel, and the justification of the likes of the Sri Rama Sene for the incident truly makes the hairs of on the back of one’s neck stand up.
Self-confessed custodians of morality — albeit a skewed one — are a dime a dozen in this day and age, and each one of them equally distanced from a broad understanding of its basic concepts in the first place. What sort of moral, ethical, social, cultural, religious code makes it all right to barge in and beat up people?
What is equally condemnable is the increasingly soft stand of the state on incidents that threaten the safety of women in public. Knee-jerk measures such as banning women from working night shifts and serving as bar tenders or dancers does not address the deeper issues. The ridiculous arguments that women in certain situations “ask for it” conveniently forget that they justify a completely unacceptable behaviour from men. Getting back to the Mangalore incident and slumbering authorities, how is it that the media arrived on the spot before the police did?
Sadly, the sort of publicity generated by incidents such as these also stirs up other malcontents who believe such moral policing is the order of the day. And it’s not just “malcontents” who are threatened by the idea that women have an equal right to space in all senses of the word and are increasingly demanding their share of it. There is a surprisingly large proportion of people otherwise who subscribe in some degree or other to codes of “morality” that suit the current patriarchal set-up we live in, unable (or not wanting to) question or analyse anything that puts given power relations out of kilter.
“Stand up and fight for yourself” was the advice given by a number of panellists in a discussion on a news channel dissecting the Mangalore attack. For one thing, even the most able among us will find it a little hard to keep standing amidst an unruly mob of 40. For another, it’s a tragic commentary on the times that I need to fight for my right to be — as a person, in a public space, committing no crime of any sort.